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The Alaska State Ferry: Through the Inside Passage

Load that pick-up with supplies, because prices for everything in Alaska run high. Speaking of “high,” a retail marijuana shop is open for business right outside of our motel in Bellingham, Washington not far from the ferry terminal.

Never thought we would see the day

Never thought we would see the day

Workers quickly point out that bringing Washington weed out of state is illegal, even though we’re traveling to another “weed legal” state.

Mare and I plan to spend the summer volunteering as caretakers for the Bald Eagle Preserve in Haines, Alaska. We travel a lot and rarely visit a place more than once, but this will mark our third summer here. Haines is that special. Getting there is fun also.

Haines, Alaska

Haines, Alaska

After a four-hour wait at the terminal, where police dogs sniff vehicles, we drive onto the ship for an elevator ride to the second floor. Mare secures two lounge chairs up top in the solarium, where we’ll sleep for three nights under heat lamps.

"Room" with a view

“Room” with a view

You can also pitch a tent, using duct tape instead of spikes. Cabins are available, but sell-out fast. We prefer the panoramic view and fresh air outside. Public showers and bathrooms are free.

The peaceful waters of the Inside Passage

The peaceful waters of the Inside Passage

Goodbye beautiful Bellingham! Rare sunshine and clear skies follow us the entire cruise up the Alaska Marine Highway.

Sunset from the Ferry Columbia, Alaska Marine Highway

Sunset from the Ferry Columbia, Alaska Marine Highway

Except for a foggy morning in Ketchikan, the first stop in 38 hours.

Ketchikan Harbor

Ketchikan Harbor

Dogs cannot wait to get out of cars and hit the grass, as most large dogs “hold it” for all that time. On a previous trip, we laughed when our dog Jack took a world class, record pee here. Unfortunately, Jack is no longer with us. We miss traveling with him, but know that he would not miss this ferry ride.

One of several lighthouses lining the passage

One of several lighthouses lining the passage

I do my best to ignore the ladies next to me, as they constantly talk…to everybody, forever, except for me. Don’t intend to be rude, just don’t want to get stuck yakking for three days. It’s the first time that I have faked reading a book!

Fishing Lodge - who recognized our passing with fireworks!

Fishing Lodge – who recognized our passing with fireworks!

The ferry has a cafeteria and restaurant, but we bring our own healthy fare. Okay, we sneak some beers from the cooler, without causing a ruckus.

Wrangell, Alaska

Wrangell, Alaska

Relax. Cruise past remote island towns and a few lighthouses. This clear day reveals fishing villages along shores of the Wrangell Narrows. Typically, they’re cloaked in fog. The inside passage route often resembles a river.

The mountains are becoming more significant, but the waters remains calm

The mountains are becoming more significant, but the waters remains calm

Glaciers divide mountains the farther north we travel.

The mountains near Petersburg, Alaska

The mountains near Petersburg, Alaska

It does not get any better than this!

It does not get any better than this!

Mendenhall Glacier near Juneau, Alaska

Mendenhall Glacier near Juneau, Alaska

Nearing Haines, we get excited when spotting waterfalls from Rainbow Glacier, and our friends Dale and Rennie’s cabin in the woods below.

Rainbow Glacier near Haines, Alaska. Can you see our friend's house?

Rainbow Glacier near Haines, Alaska. Can you see our friend’s house?

We used to view this glacier from our cabin in Chilkat State Park, where we volunteered as campground hosts for two straight years. Living without running water and electricity proves that you don’t need as much as you think.

We disembark the ferry and retrieve keys for a different cabin from Alaska State Parks. This one has electricity! Next stop, the Haines Brewery where it’s growler time. Paul, the proprietor recognizes us from past years. “I didn’t realize you guys were gone so long,” he says with a smile. We share some excellent craft beer (Spruce Tip and Lookout Stout) with good friend Shannon, who greets us.

Our cabin sits on the braided Chilkat River. In the fall, this river provides a final salmon run on the North American Continent.

Home Sweet Home, on the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve

Home Sweet Home, on the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve

Up to 5,000 bald eagles shall convene here to fatten-up for winter. Like the salmon and the eagles, we have returned to Haines. It feels like home, except that Jack isn’t here.    Ron Mitchell

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18 Comments Post a comment
  1. Glenn #

    I’ve always heard that Alaska has some of the most beautiful scenery you’ll ever see. Enjoy your summer guys.

    June 6, 2015
    • Enjoy your summer too with that new ride, Glenn! The pristine wilderness scenery feels like a dream. You would love it.

      June 7, 2015
  2. At 87 my days for Alaska traveling are over; but loved your writing. I could smell the air and feel the crisp. Thanks for sharing. Mariam taswos.com

    June 6, 2015
  3. martiwrites #

    I love Bellingham. Does that count? xoxo

    June 6, 2015
    • I could see you loving Bellingham, Marti. Maybe we’ll be neighbors someday.

      June 7, 2015
      • martiwrites #

        That would be fun! Lemme know when they outlaw winter.

        June 26, 2015
      • Oh no, we will keep Hawaii for the winter.

        June 27, 2015
  4. Ma & Pa #

    Beautiful photos and descriptive writings.. you guys are so blessed to have such wonderful talents and adventures..
    p.s. I betcha Jack is with you in spirit…… ENJOY!!!

    June 6, 2015
  5. Love this post, the gorgeous photos too (Marilyn’s I assume). Wish I could come up again, never say never…stay tuned. 🙂 Hope it’s a great summer!

    June 6, 2015
  6. Pilcher #

    Great narrative and pics of some beautiful country. Me thinks It’s time for an Alaskan rescue dog. Haines would be a good name!

    June 7, 2015
    • I love that doggie name, Doug. You never know what’s going to wonder through the door!

      June 7, 2015
  7. HB #

    Thanks for the show-and-tell journey to Haines. What a beautiful trip! You two make the trip come alive for us desert dogs. Have a terrific summer!

    June 7, 2015
  8. eric jorgensen #

    GOOD ON YA!

    You know, you make traveling look easy. But I appreciate that you do a lot of hard work to get to the fun part. Have a great summer,

    eric

    June 8, 2015
    • Yes, as you know it usually pays off at the end of the day! You have a great summer also..

      June 8, 2015

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